India is confronting its long-held bias against dark skin

Skin lightening products generate billions of dollars in sales
Skin lightening products generate billions of dollars in sales

A growing number of Indian people are speaking out against cosmetic giants selling skin-whitening creams as global anti-racism protests shine a spotlight on Asia's obsession with fair skin.

Seema, a skin lightening product user, says, "When I look at the fairness cream commercials it looks like a good product. They show that when people become fairer they get jobs, they get proposals for marriage."

READ MORE: Revisiting the colourism and pretty privilege conversation amid Pearl Thusi Twitter controversy 

Prejudice against darker skin tones is pervasive - global anti-racism protests have put pressure to end the bias. Unilever only recently dropped the word "fair" from its popular Fair & Lovely cream. But some warn the fight has only just begun.

Activist Kavita Krishnan says, "They should be doing much more to make amends for the wrong that they have done, because they were selling basically bleach products which did harm to the skin and they were also doing deep harm to the psyche of people growing up, especially young women growing up, girls growing up and so on because they were putting money – big money – into normalising this idea that you are lesser than if you are dark."

While experts say British colonialism helped fuel colourism, the bias is deeply rooted in ancient caste hierarchies. 

Compiled by Phelokazi Mbude

Follow us on social media: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our stories and giveaway.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Do you think it's important to get married in this day and age?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, it's important in order to create a family unit and for companionship
22% - 678 votes
Not at all. Being single is far more liberating
9% - 282 votes
There is no general answer to this, it's each to their own
50% - 1552 votes
Yes, society still frowns on unmarried people, especially women
1% - 40 votes
It depends on whether you are able to find a compatible partner
18% - 558 votes